4-year-old Nawaz loses the battle for his life at DJ Halli

On February 27th 2015, yet another malnourished child from DJ Halli passed away due to pneumonia compounded by malnutrition and cerebral palsy. Nawaz died at the age of 4 years and 4 months, weighing only 9.8 kg. His pneumonia was fatal because he didn’t receive treatment at the local primary health centre (PHC). Known as the Maidan Hospital’ at DJ Halli, this primary health centre and maternity home is infamous locally for turning away pregnant mothers who are on the verge of delivery, if they do not pay extra money. People typically don’t even attempt to use the centre for other ailments because of the extreme callousness with which patients are treated.

Nawaz’ mother, Naseema and brother, Tausif. Pic: Movement for Basic Rights DJ Halli

Nawaz’s mother, Naseema brought him to the primary health centre at noon on February 27th. She waited for two and a half hours for treatment. The nurses on duty refused to administer suction to Nawaz, with one of them, Ms Shoba saying that she was scared to do it, and asked Nawaz’s older brother Tousif to ‘be the doctor’ and do it himself. Naseema asks what nurses and doctors are trained and paid for, if they are afraid of providing basic medical care, and if instead of attending to patients, they spend all their time talking on the phone. Furthermore, there was no electricity and despite requests from Tippu, another resident of DJ Halli, the staff refused to turn on the generator to run the aspirator for Nawaz, saying they would only do so in an emergency. The fact that Nawaz died shortly after they refused treatment, around 3 pm, shows that there could be no greater emergency, and yet the hospital refused to recognise it.

Today on February 28th, a group of local residents and supporters, went to a nutrition awareness function that ironically happened to be organised by the government, opposite Maidan hospital. The function was presided by the local MLA Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy (Pulikeshinagar assembly constituency), and attended by various judges, ministers and government officials from the departments of Health and Women and Child Development.

Nawaz’ mother Naseema addressing the crowd at the nutrition awareness function. Pic: Movement for Basic Rights DJ Halli

Naseema spoke of her plight in losing her son due to the negligence at Maidan hospital. The MLA took cognisance of her complaint and directed the DHO to ensure that hospital functions properly and to take action against whichever staff were negligent. Some officials such as Savita, CHO, angered the local population by suggesting that parents were negligent in not taking their children to private hospitals. For a government health servant to say this is shocking, and belittles the very notion of public health care and government responsibility. In the case of Nawaz, the parents waited for two and a half hours for the government hospital to administer treatment, and finally left in exasperation to go to a private hospital.

In July 2013, it was 6-year-old Meghala, a malnourished child from DJ Halli who died after having contracted pneumonia compounded by malnutrition. At that time, similar promises were made by the state only to be broken; a new Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) was promised at DJ Halli. For a few months, the Maidan hospital had a board announcing the new NRC, but there were no signs of a functioning NRC inside! The CHO, Savita denied the existence of this board announcing the NRC, and several local residents promptly showed her photos of the board on their phones. Now the department has taken down the board and there are no signs of the NRC at all. A new one is being promised at KG Halli instead, and there are serious doubts, if it will indeed materialise. 

Other demands of the group also include:

  1. Immediately establish a functional Nutrition Rehabilitation Center in the DJ Halli area; if it is established in KG Halli instead, an ambulance should be available as a 24×7 service, for transporting residents from nearby areas as.
  2. The PHC at DJ Halli needs to be fully functional, with properly trained and paid personnel, medicine and equipment. There should be no further cases of staff insisting on extra money from potential patients or denying health services.
  3. Immediate action against the nurse Ms Shoba and suspension of Ms Savita for her callous statements denying the responsibility borne by public health services.
  4. The disability pensions that are owed to several people in DJ Halli continue to be unpaid. This should be rectified immediately. The disability survey should be completed and disability cards issued.
  5. Open the 40 new Anganwadi centers (AWC) promised after Meghala’s death
  6. As promised after Meghala’s death, AAY/BPL cards must be issued to all families with severely and acutely malnourished (SAM) children. 

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